It seems a bit daft to praise a film for being an old-fashioned thriller, and perhaps to make allowances for any minor shortcomings because for once here’s a film without lots of CGI or action-packed caped capers- but you know, there was just something so endearingly comforting about this film: sure I could guess some of the ‘twists’ and some of the casting seemed to telegraph some of those twists, but on the whole this was thoroughly entertaining and such a breath of fresh air it was easy to make such allowances.
As night falls on New York City, two obviously military-background criminals Michael (Stephan James) and Ray (Taylor Kitsch) perform a heist on a closed restaurant that escalates quickly in all the wrong ways- the restaurant’s storeoom is full of millions of dollars worth of uncut drugs and the two perps have to shoot their way out when cops apparently stumble on the heist. They leave a bloody trail of destruction that leaves seven officers dead and a citywide manhunt closing the city down until 5 a.m. Summoned to the scene, Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman), a cop with a perhaps unfair reputation for being a ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ kind of law enforcer, is given the task of hunting down the two cop-killers – but Andre is immediately suspicious that not everything seems to add up.
Directed by Brian Kirk, whose resume of television shows includes episodes of Game of Thrones, Hard Sun, Penny Dreadful and Luther, this is a taut, relentlessly entertaining film with some brilliantly staged action sequences. Its paced quickly enough to mask some of the plot contrivances but not enough to make it as obvious as, say, a JJ Abrams flick does. Quite often I caught myself comparing it to Die Hard or Witness, it was that good- well, maybe that was me getting a little carried away, but I really did enjoy it. It seemed so refreshing to see something so traditional as a police thriller with a great cast and a simple, direct plot in an era in which we are assaulted by OTT superhero flicks or ludicrously explosive blockbusters.
Dare I suggest its the perfect Friday-night-in movie for our trying times?
21 Bridges is available on DVD and Blu-ray and streaming on Amazon Prime.